Haunted by Halloween
answers questions about the scariness of Halloween and helps to ease
fears of Halloween Terrorism.
“Will there be Halloween and
Trick-or-Treating this year, G-Ma? Will there?”
My five-year-old grandson, Matt,
was very agitated since his arrival home from school. I knew he would
eventually get to his ‘questions’ or ‘concerns’ as he always did. He is
a sensitive a little guy who is very structured and gets extremely upset
when things don’t go as expected. Today was one of those days
“Why do you ask, Matt,” I replied,
always fascinated by the way his mind reasons out his questions. As most
grandparents, I have learned to never second-guess what’s going on in a
“G-Ma, Dylan at school said his
parents told him there wouldn’t be Halloween this year…” he didn’t pause
as he rattled off his concerns hurriedly, “…and Jordan said his mommy and
daddy told him the same thing. I’m already getting my Allosaurus costume
ready. Why isn’t there going to be Halloween?”
I took his hand and led him over to
the couch where we did most of our ‘after school’ chatting right after he
gets home. Sarah, his three-year-old sister, bounced onto the couch and
tried to worm her way into the middle. Women have a way, even at three,
of not wanting to be left out of anything important.
“Sarah,” yelled Matt. “I’m talking
“It’s okay Matt, it’s okay,” I said
soothing the two of them and putting Sarah on my lap. “Now, Matt, let’s
talk about what happened at yard time (known as recess in my day). Did
the boys say why they wouldn’t be able to wear their costumes and go
“Well, G-Ma, you know the planes hit
those buildings—the Twin Towers-- and ever since, these boys are scared
even at school. Jordan still cries when his mommy leaves and he’s five
“I don’t cry when mommy drops me
off. I’m a big girl,” Sarah contributed. She flashed her big brown eyes
I quickly realized there were lots
of parents reluctant to help their children celebrate this particular
Holiday. Everywhere Anthrax scares dominate the headlines of papers and
television. It is natural that a paranoia of exposure would creep into
people’s minds. But wasn’t that what the Terrorists really wanted—to
strike fear at the hearts of Americans, to make us cower in their shadow?
To make our children frightened and intimidated?
Perhaps some of these parents
forgot that their remarks and emotional reactions of fear and paranoia
are studied by their kids and reflected back at the world through the
children’s fears of the unknown.
“Why doesn’t Jordan’s mother want
him to have Halloween, Matt?” I wanted to see what was the root of Matt’s
“His mom and dad don’t want him to
be scared. They said he’s been scared enough by the bad people who blew
up the Twin Towers. So there won’t be any Halloween.”
I wondered about the degree of fear
Jordan’s parents were heaping on him, and transferring over to Matt. If a
parent believes the ghosts, goblins, monsters we see at Halloween are as
scary as the Terrorists—or even near the level of fear Terrorism
reaches—then they are playing right into the Terrorists’ hands I thought.
They are re-traumatizing their child, re-issuing the fear and intimidation
that was the Terrorists true weapon of “destruction.”
As a mother I understood the
instinct to protect a child from emotional harm. But I wondered if
Jordan’s mother was injecting her fear upon the child, feeding it, rather
than helping the child defend himself against it. Parents have a right to
raise their children as they wish, I only wished Jordan’s mother knew
about Semper Vigilantes, for then she might not be so eager to turn
Halloween into a night of Terror rather than fun.
“The monsters at Halloween aren’t
real, are they G-Ma? There aren’t really ghosts, skeletons, monsters in
our neighborhood, right? Matt asked.
Before I could give him my answer,
Sarah was there with her two-cents worth. “They are only stories, Matt,
like mommy and daddy told us.” Sarah patted her brother’s hand,
reassuringly. At three she amazed us all with her maternal instincts as
well as her apparent fearlessness.
Earlier in the afternoon after
picking her up from pre-school, we were walking to Matt’s school to pick
him up. We had time to kill so we strolled along slowly and ‘window
peeked’ as was our custom. The stores along the route displayed many
Halloween figures. Sarah noted, counted and commentated on all of them.
We were beginning to run behind
schedule and as I tried to pull her away from one of the windows, she
matter-of-factly stated “the Ghost, the Scarecrow, the Skeleton, the Bat,
the Rat, the Witch, the Monsters don’t scare ME, G-Ma. Daddy, Mommy,
Auntie ‘E’, Grampa Joe and NaNa, you, and, oh yes, mostly G-Pa will always
protect me and keep me safe. I’m not afraid of these monsters,…….. or if
buildings fall down,” she added.
Sarah had processed the idea that
she had an entire family network standing vigilant over her. It amazed me
that one child in the family had such a depth of understanding about
protection, while her brother, living in the same environment, wasn’t
showing the same kind of fortitude as his younger sister. Perhaps it was
all the talk at school that boys engage in, or their fascination with
monsters and scaring others that made fear loom larger in Matt’s mind than
it did Sarah’s. I wasn’t sure what the reason for the difference, but I
was sure that I needed to be a Parent of Vigilance with both Matt and
Sarah, and help fight their fears, not feed them. I turned my attention
back to Matt’s question about whether the monsters on Halloween were real
“No, Matt, the monsters in our
neighborhood on Halloween aren’t real. Both you and Sarah are right.
They can’t scare you because you have your mommy and daddy and all your
relatives to protect you. Remember what you told me about having fear.
Tell me again what your pre-school teacher told you last year,” I held his
hand. I wanted him to understand the source of fear, not tell him what I
thought and think that was the answer. The answer, I knew, came from
within a child’s heart.
Matt’s eyes flicked back and forth
as his mind searched the past. He smiled up, happy he could show off his
memory to GMa.
“Ms. Mati said we should only be
afraid of what can really hurt us, and nothing else.” He paused as he
repeated his teacher’s comment. “Oh, I get it, G-Ma, the ghosts,
monsters, and other stuff can’t hurt Sarah and me so I don’t have to be
afraid.” He nodded his head, answering his own question.
I took his hand and drew him to me
for a quick hug. There was such a light in his eyes when he “discovered
the truth from within.”
As I held him I thought about the
conversation I overheard at Key Food. A woman was discussing with the
clerk why she wasn’t going to let her children eat any of the trick or
treat candy they collected. She was going to trash it. At the time, I
didn’t connect her fears with terrorists ‘contaminating’ the candy with
big time bugs like Anthrax and Smallpox.
For years I worried about pins,
glass, etc. being in the candy our children were given, and I always went
through all the goodies and tossed the unwrapped or suspicious pieces.
That was long before the World Trade Center was attacked. It was simple
Parental Semper Vigilantes then. But I’m not beyond paranoia either. I
wondered: “Will terrorists be more thorough and dangerous in their
participation of Halloween this year?” “Should I encourage my daughter
not to take the kids out trick or treating?”
Maybe the Halloween terror had
already begun. The news was filled with stories about mail and packages
contaminated with Anthrax. What could I possible say to Matt to ease his
fears about “monsters in the neighborhood?” The more I began to think
about it, the greater my own fears began to grow that the Trick or Treat
candy garnered on Halloween might poison my dear little ones.
Then I caught myself. The
terrorists were well ahead of the Halloween schedule. They were attacking
us in our homes, infecting our children with fears, making us cower,
fearful of going out on the streets. I was turning the “make believe”
monsters of Halloween into streets filled with Terrorists handing out
Matt stated he should only have
fear from something that or someone who could really hurt him…I was
allowing terrorism power over me. Fear couldn’t hurt him unless I let it
by feeding fuel to the fire—by being fearful myself. I couldn’t pass my
concerns onto Matt and Sarah. But I could be cautious, extra cautious.
“I think this Halloween will be no
different than last year’s, kids,” I stated firmly, reassuring myself as I
spoke. “ Our neighborhood will distribute good candy, your parents will
check the pieces out to make sure it is ‘good candy’; you will have a
great time wearing your dinosaur and dragon costumes in the community and
at your school parties.”
realized children are calmed when parents and others reassure their kids
they are protected—when parents are Semper Vigilantes.
The upcoming Halloween might have to
be handled differently this year to ease any of the fears of those
parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, etc. if we are especially
attentive to the horror and fear of terrorism and bring it all into a
clearer perspective. If parents don’t allow their children to celebrate
the holiday, they might bring more attention to the terror of September 11
and fuel the Terrorists’ goals of making us all afraid. Terrorists want us
to cancel the festivities of a national evening of fun. They thrive on
ruining any and all ‘normal’ activities just as bullies like to intimidate
the weak and helpless. As a Parent Of Vigilance, I decided we need to
keep up with our routine activities, specifically, not being Terrorized
by October 31. The Terrorists weren’t going to win this battle, I vowed.
“Hey, I have a cool idea, Sarah and
Matt, it would be so neat if all trick-or-treaters wore the Semper
Vigilantes armbands and when they, and you, enter a house, apartment,
store say ‘trick-or-treat’ and ‘Semper Vigilantes’. Just by saying the
words, everyone will be aware you and all the other children wearing
costumes that are so precious and loved by your parents and by the
neighborhoods, they wouldn’t dare try anything.”
“Yes!” Sarah bounced in my lap.
I got excited at the response.
“Communities besides being vigilant to all the scary monsters out
at Halloween trick-or-treating, will additionally be Semper Vigilant. All
of the children will know they are protected by the Sentinels Of Vigilance
and have nothing to fear; except, from maybe, an Allosaurus like you,
Matt, and a dragon, like you, Sarah.”
Already I was feeling better.
“Do Dragons wear armbands, G-Ma?”
Sarah pursed her lip.
“ROARRR I am an Allosaurus and I
will bite your armband off of you, Dragon,” Matt teased as he charged
“G-Pa will be in a big bear costume,
Matt, and he will protect me. I’m not afraid of you, an Allosaurus, or
anyone,” Sarah countered.
I gathered my two love-bugs about me
and was thankful their fears were under control and/or nonexistent. And, I
was most thankful my momentary lapse of fear was thwarted.
I hope all parents think of Semper
Vigilantes this Halloween and will allow their ‘love-bugs’ to enjoy the
holiday they savored so much as children when they dressed up as ghosts,
witches, monsters. If they and their children go 'trick or treating' with the “Always Vigilant” attitude of
Semper Vigilantes, they’ll have a safe, fun night—not only on Halloween,
but every day and night.
Enjoy the fun.